Uncovering the beauty of Selangau

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The participants relaxing on the pebble beach at Emplasi Waterfall. – Photo by Conny Banji

A ROAD journey on the Pan Borneo Highway from north to south will be incomplete if travellers do not stop by Selangau town.

Once called a cowboy town by the locals, Selangau has flourished tremendously especially in the last 10 years with the increasing number of commercial and non-commercial buildings, residentials and other ongoing development projects.

Its strategic location by the Pan Borneo Highway has made Selangau, which is located about 75 kilometres from Sibu, a popular pit stop for road trippers to have a cup of coffee before continuing their journey.

Selangau, like other places, also has its own potential tourism attractions waiting to be explored, rather than being merely known as a stopover destination for road travellers.

To uncover its hidden gems, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) organised a Selangau Discovery trip under their Sarawak Product Experience (SPE) project from July 26 to 28 this year.

The trip comprised 18 participants led by Prisca Wong from STB Sibu Visitors’ Information Centre.

Rumah Emerlly 

‘Gendang pampat’ performance by Rumah Emerlly residents. – Photo by Conny Banji

The participants stayed at 25-door Rumah Emerlly at Tinting Sebenda, Mile 36 in Tamin during the trip.

Located by the side of old Jalan Sibu-Selangau, the longhouse built in 1993 still maintains its traditional wooden structure which has increasingly become a rare sight not just in Selangau, but also in other places in the state.

For those looking for a longhouse stay experience, Rumah Emerlly is just the right choice.

Despite its traditional structure, the longhouse is equipped with a gravity-feed water system, 24-hour electricity and 4G internet coverage.

According to Penghulu Julia Awal, the longhouse residents have shown a keen interest in venturing into homestay programmes.

“There are several ‘bilek’ (units) at the longhouse suitable for homestay programmes. Most of the ‘bilek’ are vacant because the owners are working and staying in major towns like Bintulu and Sibu.

“We need guidance from the relevant agencies like the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to make this happen as this is a good opportunity for us to generate income from this industry,” she said.

Throughout their stay, the participants were not just spoiled with choices of local delicacies served by the longhouse residents but also by their exceptional kindness and hospitality.

They also showed close cooperation by working together in decorating the ‘ruai’, where they performed the ‘ngajat’, ‘kuntau’, ‘taboh’ and ‘gendang pampat’ to entertain their guests.

Jeanie Rohana from UKAS (second left) joining the longhouse residents to prepare the ‘pansuh’ dish. – Photo by Conny Banji

Emplasi Waterfall

The first spot the team explored on the first day was Emplasi Waterfall which is just about 15 to 20 minutes’ drive from Selangau town.

As the name suggested, the waterfall derived its name from a freshwater fish species that once used to be found abundantly in the river.

The waterfall is a popular spot among the locals for picnics and family gathering during the weekends or public holidays.

The clear and cold water together with the beautiful surroundings will surely captivate anyone visiting the area.

For visitors’ convenience, Sibu Rural District Council (SRDC) had built a concrete path to the waterfall and also two toilets which were just completed in June this year.

Sewong Waterfall

Sewong Waterfall. – Photo by Conny Banji

Nestled within an oil palm plantation is Sewong Waterfall which is the second spot the team visited on the first day of the trip.

The team were guided by the land owner Thomas Tutong and his family members to get to this location which is still unknown by many.

The journey on a four-wheel-drive to the waterfall from the junction along the Pan Borneo Highway took about one hour, going through plantation road.

The team were greeted by the sight of Thomas’ farm house which is still under construction, upon reaching a location along the road to the waterfall.

Thomas told them to park the cars there and continue the journey for another 20 minutes on foot descending a slope as the path to the waterfall is only accessible that way.

The 59-year-old headmaster of a school in Sibu shared his vision of the waterfall areas being commercialised upon his retirement.

“I want to turn this place as a tourist attraction one day where outdoor activity enthusiasts can come to take a dip in the pool below the waterfall, enjoy the nature, go jungle trekking, flying fox, hiking, camping or other activities,” he said.

He added the plan is not just to promote the waterfall but also to protect and preserve the environment in the area which is still spared from plantation activities.

Selangau town 

On the second day of SPE Selangau Discovery, the participants were taken on a tour to Selangau town located by the Batang Mukah River.

The name Selangau is taken from Sungai Selangau which is a tributary of Batang Mukah, according to the Selangau district office.

Administratively, Selangau district measuring 3,795 square kilometres is placed under Sibu Division.

It started from only four shops run by the Chinese and Iban shopkeepers, selling daily necessities.

The Baketan tribe were the original settlers in Selangau but they later moved to Ulu Tatau after the arrival of the Ibans from Kanowit and Sungai Lemanak.

The Ibans built a settlement in Kuala Sungai Selangau in the 1930s or 1940s and relocated near Jalan Sibu/Bintulu after the completion of the road around the 1960s.

From there, Selangau, which at that time was placed under the administration of Mukah District, has begun to develop into a town.

The population increased after the arrival of traders from Kuala Kenyana, Balingian, Bintangor, Sibu and Sarikei who boosted further trading activities in Selangau.

The SPE Selangau Discovery participants were fortunate that the trip coincided with Selangau Carnival which is an annual event organised by SRDC.

Apart from the existing shops, there were rows of sales booths selling various items ranging from handicrafts, musical instruments, children’s toys, clothes, beddings, plants, food and others – making the town livelier than usual.

Must-visit spots in Selangau are the ‘tamu’ and the waterfront which are the new landmarks of the town.

A trader arranges the items for ‘miring’ ritual at her stall at the tamu. – Photo by Conny Banji

During the weekends, especially in morning hours, the ‘tamu’ is divided into wet and dry sections and is usually flooded with visitors looking for jungle produce unavailable elsewhere.

As for the waterfront, it had undergone a RM5 million facelift funded by the state government.

Sibu Yu Lung San Tian En Si Temple 

The magnificent arch of the Sibu Yu Lung San Tian En Si temple. – Photo by Conny Banji

Whenever there is a meeting, a parting shall follow.

The participants bid farewell and took photos with Rumah Emerlly residents before leaving the longhouse on the last day of the trip.

From there, they were brought to Sibu Yu Lung San Tian En Si temple which was the last item in the itinerary.

Also known as Jade Dragon Temple, it has turned into a tourist attraction with its unique architectural designs.

Located at Mile 16½ of Jalan Sibu/Bintulu, the temple provides a place of worship for the followers of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

The visit to the temple, said to be the largest temple complex in South East Asia, concluded the three-day, two-night trip leaving the participants with unique memories of Selangau.